Up Close and Personal with the Tarsiers of Bohol

November 30, 2010

Up Close and Personal with the Tarsiers of Bohol

Why you shouldn't miss seeing the Tarsiers of Bohol
You cannot find it anywhere in the world except where it is endemic, like in Bohol. They cannot be transported anywhere like other animals because they are so sensitive and easily traumatized. Those who have attempted to smuggle them outside their habitat were unsuccessful. The Tarsiers are so sensitive, they commit suicide and die when they are touched. Therefore you cannot find it in different zoos around the world. 

What Kids Should Know
  • What are Tarsiers
  1. They are the world's smallest primate. They have similar physical characteristics as the monkey. 
  2. They are also one of the oldest land species, existing for almost 45 million years
  • Where can it be found
  1. The Philippines (in Bohol, Leyte, Samar and Mindanao) 
  2. Indonesia (in Sulawesi, Borneo, Sumatra) 
  • Interesting facts about the Tarsiers of Bohol 
(taken from http://www.tarsierfoundation.org/the-tarsiers-of-bohol)
  •  They are nocturnal animals (meaning they are active at night and sleep during the day) and should not be disturbed at day time  
  • Their main diet is insects and should not be fed with meat. 
  • They commit suicide during captivity due to trauma from touching and loud noise. 
  • They’re one of the slowest fetal growth rates of any mammal, taking 6 months to reach a birth weight of 23 grams. 
  • A single tarsier needs at least a hectare of space per individual 

1:30PM -1:45 PM: Traveled from the Loboc River to the Tarsier Sanctuary

1:45 PM-215pm: Saw and fed the Tarsiers of Bohol

They sleep during the day.

This is how close we were able to see the Tarsier.

No touching!
My daughter pretending to touch the Tarsier.

See our next stop: The Actual Blood Compact Site

Lunch at the Loboc River Cruise

November 29, 2010

Lunch at the Loboc River Cruise

What Kids Should Know
  • Where it is located: at Loay-Loboc River
  • Why is the river important in the history of Loboc: the Loboc River is important because most of the inhabitants pf this town live near the river before the Spaniards came and established the town.
  • What the river cruise boat is made of: The river cruise boat, which is also a floating restaurant, is made of 2 boats with a platform on top.
  • What to expect:  The cruise takes you along the Loboc River. While on the cruise, you dine with Filipino food, buffet style, and are entertained by locals dancing and singing Filipino songs on a platform built on one side of the river. At the end of the river is a small waterfalls.
11:30 AM -12:00 PM: Registration at the terminal of the Lobor River Cruise

Our guide, Tatsky, recommended Riverwatch Floating Restaurant. 

The Menu of Riverwatch: Pork Barbecue, Grilled Fish, Grilled Squid, Crab, Kutsinta and Suman, Ginaling, Malagkit, Fresh Mango, Mix Vegetables, Bamboo Shoots, Pancit, Pinakbet, Etc.

The ticket
Free wifi at the terminal
The new rates as of May 1, 2010

 12:00 PM -1:30 PM: Loboc River Cruise

Boarding the floating restaurant

The floating restaurant built on top of 2 large bancas

Dining at the floating restaurant

The end of the River where the boat takes a u-turn

A small performance was made by the locals singing Filipino songs on a platform on the side of the river.

German Christmas Market

November 26, 2010

German Christmas Market

Mamasko tayo sa Weihnachtsmarkt!
The 2nd German Christmas Market will be held in the campus of the Ateneo de Manila University. The event brings together students, teachers, parents and educational partners to experience German culture through various contests, educational games, concerts, dance performances, sport competitions, cooking demos and food tastings. Let us come together to experience a traditional German holiday cheer!
(Taken from the Goethe Institute Website.)

What I Love about the German Christmas Market
1. The Stollen!

  • They have the best and freshest stollen I've ever tasted! Santis Delicatessen usually sells the Stollen during the Christmas season, but the Stollen at the German Christmas Market is much better.
  • What is a Stollen:  Stollen is a loaf-shaped cake containing dried fruit, and covered with sugar, powdered sugar or icing. The cake is usually made with chopped candied fruit and/or dried fruit, nuts and spices. Stollen is a traditional German cake, usually eaten during the Christmas season, when called Weihnachtsstollen or Christstollen. A similar cake from the Dutch cuisine is called a Kerststol in Dutch, while in Italian cuisine the panettone also shows a likeness. (from Wikipedia)
2. The different varieties of sausage available.
3. The different food stalls that mainly carries European food. And of course, German cuisine is widely available.

What Kids Will Learn
1. They will have a brief exposure to German culture, more particularly, the German Christmas tradition.
2. They will learn that the tradition of having Christmas Markets originated from Germany.
A Christmas market, also known as Christkindlmarkt, Christkindlesmarkt, Christkindlmarket, and Weihnachtsmarkt, is a street market associated with the celebration of Christmas during the four weeks of Advent. These markets originated in Germany and Alsace but are now being held in many other countries. (from Wikipedia)

Location of the 2010 Christmas Market 

To view the Ateneo School Map, see here

Bring back WoW Philippines!

November 19, 2010


Bring back WoW Philippines!

As of this writing, the Department of Tourism is reconsidering it's decision to adopt " Pilipinas Kay Ganda" as the new slogan of the Philippines tourism campaign. We should make more of our voices heard so the new government will bring it back and continue to use it. 

To recall why the Wow Philippines! ad won at both the prestigious Internationale Tourismus Borse (ITB) in Berlin and World Travel Mart in London in 2003, see the collection of video commercials below:

15 second spot commercials shown at CNN and BBC

Video uploaded by PlaneFreak

Video uploaded by PlaneFreak

30 second spot commercials shown in Asia:

Video uploaded by PlaneFreak

30 second spot commercials shown in Europe:

Video uploaded by PlaneFreak

Holidays in the Philippines

November 18, 2010

Holidays in the Philippines

People often refer to the Holiday Economics Law (RA 9492) to find out when the regular holidays and nationwide special holidays are observed in the Philippines. However, with the addition of the Eidul Adha holiday with the enactment of RA 9848 last December 2009, we now refer to RA 9848 as the most recent law on regular and nationwide special holidays. Below is the list of non-working holidays in the Philippines

Regular Holidays

New Year's Day-January 1
Maundy Thursday- Movable Date
Good Friday- Movable Date
Eidul Fitr- Movable Date
Eidul Adha- Movable Date
Araw ng Kagitingan
(Bataan and Corregidor Day)
- Monday nearest April 9
Labor Day- Monday nearest May 1
Independence Day- Monday nearest June 12
National Heroes Day- Last Monday of August
Bonifacio Day- Monday nearest November 30
Christmas Day- December 25
Rizal Day- Monday nearest December 30

Nationwide Special Holidays

Ninoy Aquino Day- Monday nearest August 21
All Saints Day- November 1
Last Day of the Year- December 31

NOTE: With the new government of President Aquino, we don't know whether we are celebrating the holiday on the day itself or the Monday nearest the date, as the law provides.  Check out my article on 3 day long weekends in the Philippines.

Puerto Princesa Underground River: Finalist in the New 7 Wonders of Nature

November 17, 2010

Puerto Princesa Underground River:
Finalist in the New 7 Wonders of Nature

We have all heard in the newspapers about the campaign to vote for the New 7 Wonders of Nature. This is an update.

The nominees for the 7 wonders of nature came from more than 440 locations and 220 countries.  The global voting was conducted from December 2007 until July 7, 2009. Only 77 nominees were chosen.

After the 77 nominees were chosen, the Panel of Experts deliberated for 2 weeks and then announced the 28 finalists on July 21,2009. Among them is the Philippines' Puerto Princesa Underground River.

Update on our current ranking:
We are currently in the top 14. The global voting is still ongoing. The Official Declaration on the new 7 Wonders of Nature will be made on November 11, 2011. We have less than a year to vote. If you haven't voted yet, go here to vote. A sample is shown below:

Tips on How to get a US tourist visa (B1/B2)

October 31, 2010

Tips on How to get a US tourist visa

Loving the Philippines doesn't mean I wouldn't be interested in going to other places like the US. We have a lot of relatives in the US and having a US tourist visa definitely makes things  easier for those who like exploring and traveling to different places and discovering different cultures. For instance,  when you apply for a Schengen visa for travel to Europe, they ask for a photocopy of your valid US visa at the interview. Although it's not officially listed as one of the requirements, they do ask for it during the interview. I interpret this to mean that having a US visa bears some weight with the consul of other countries and will persuade them to grant you their visa. Admittedly, the most difficult visa to get is the US visa.

Although we are focusing right now on discovering the Philippines, a great part of my kids' education focuses on cultural tolerance. By exposing them to other cultures, they learn to accept that people who have different beliefs and practices are not necessarily wrong in those beliefs. The beliefs and practices they develop are borne of experiences in their daily life in an effort to survive the daily struggles of  their own unique situation and environment. As usual with Filipinos, if we have funds for travel, we usually travel first to other countries. So we traveled first to other countries. But later appreciated the Philippines more for its unique natural beauty, which remains its competitive edge in the tourism industry.

I'm sure a lot of you are already eager to know my experience getting a US tourist visa so let's get on with the story.

I renewed my 10 year visa in 2007 so my experience in 2007 is no longer valid. The rest of my family, which  includes my husband and  4 kids, had visas expiring November 2010, so I'll share with you their experience renewing their visa  last week. Although my tips pertain to renewing a tourist visa, I'm sure the information below will help those attempting to get a US tourist visa for the very first time. At the end of the post, I will give tips for first-time applicants to give them greater chance of getting one. So do read on till the end of my post.


I will talk about  the process in chronological order so you would know how to prioritize the tasks. With the new system in place, which requires everyone to electronically fill out the application form, you cannot do things  simultaneously. It needs to be done one-by-one, and  in the following order:

2 months before the intended date of interview:

1. Have your photo taken, saved in CD and printed in 2 x 2 print.

This is the first thing you should  do because you cannot electronically submit the application form and get a confirmation number without uploading your digital photo. Visapoint (the website where you get an online appointment schedule) requires that you upload the photo before you can submit your application form. After you submit your application form, you get a confirmation number. You need to have a confirmation number before you can see the appointment  availability at visapoint.

2. Fill up the DS 160 form electronically.

Do not fear filling up this form  because you can edit the contents and edit your confirmation number until 2 days before the interview date. By filling up the form, you immediately get a confirmation number. When you have a confirmation number, you can get an appointment through visapoint.

3. Log in at visa point, purchase a pin and fill up the form.

4. Get the appointment date.

The dates open at visapoint are only until 2 months from the date you get inside visapoint. Do no think that the embassy is fully booked beyond 2 months. They simply don't open the booking facility beyond 2 months from the time you log on to visapoint.

In our case, we made sure we were able to log on at visapoint  2 months before our intended date of interview just to  make sure we get the desired date. The kids don't have classes on sem break so we planned to renew the visa at that time to make it easier to arrange our schedules.

From our  experience, Thursdays are usually the slowest time in any government agency. So we got a Thursday slot. We also got the 1st slot, the 730 am slot, because it usually has the shortest wait time. Logically, if you have the 1st slot in any line, your wait time is shortest. My husband and 4 kids got the 730 am slot and  they finished the interview at 10am. I got the 1030am slot in 2007 when I renewed my visa and I finished 3pm.

1 week before the date of interview:

Review the application form.
Just to make sure that I filled up my kids' form correctly and accurately, I reviewed the contents of the  application form and resubmitted it and got a more recent confirmation number. You need not do this. But being my obsessive self, I had to do this to make sure everything is perfect. Remember, you can change the confirmation number through visapoint until 2 days before your interview.

2 days before the date of interview:

I paid the visa fee just 2 days before the interview. Why 2 days before? The embassy website suggests that you pay 2 days before the interview to avoid large fluctuation in currency exchange. You will not be accepted for interview if  the amount you pay in peso is insufficient. You pay your visa fee in peso and not in US dollars. In US dollars, the rate is fixed. But if you pay in peso, you are subject to currency fluctuation. Since the US embassy website, suggests you pay 2 days before, they cannot argue that you didn't pay the sufficient amount because you only did what they suggested.


1. Do not be late.
They require that you to be at the embassy an hour before the interview.

2. Do not bring electronic devices like cellphones.
There's no place within the embassy to deposit it. You will risk depositing it with strangers outside the embassy for a fee. Being the resourceful Filipinos  that we are, there are a lot of people doing business outside the embassy as depository for cellphones and electronic devices. They hold on to your cellphone, give you a claim stub, and pay them a fee. Of course, it's risky since these people are strangers.


No matter what the US embassy website says, I still think that with the new process installed by the US embassy, a lot of people have been pre-qualified already, meaning, when you arrive at the interview, those who are renewing their visa and has not violated the terms of their  visa, already has a very big change of  renewing their visa. 

Why do I say that? What's different about the new system?

1. You cannot edit your application information and submit a new confirmation number 2 days before the interview.

Two days before your interview, you can no longer change the confirmation number of your application form at visapoint. Therefore, the application form with the confirmation number submitted with visapoint is the final application form that the consul will refer to at the interview.  Therefore, 2 days before the interview, they are already privy to all your personal information and could already judge whether or not you qualify for a visa. In 2007, when I renewed my visa, all the information in my application form is only submitted on the day of the interview. Today, they have that information already 2 days before the interview.

2. In the electronic application form, they ask whether you were given a visa before and what the visa number is. 

To a certain extent, those requesting for renewal already has an edge, unless you're one of those who violated the terms of your previous visa.

If you're up for renewal without any violation of the terms of your previous visa, unless you bungle your interview, you will most probably get a new visa.

What to say and not to say at the interview:

1. Be truthful and be concise about your answer. 

This means to just answer the question asked of you briefly, without elaborating. By elaborating, there's greater chance of error or contradicting yourself. Also, the consul usually takes around 3 minutes to interview each applicant so he/she has no time to listen to elaboration. By elaborating, there's also greater chance of annoying the consul.

2. When asked the purpose of your trip, be sure to state a purpose that is within the scope of your visa. 

Basically you should know what purpose is within the scope of your visa. For instance, if you're requesting for a tourist visa, do not tell the consul that you are going to the States to go on tour and marry your fiance. They will immediately deny your application, because the true purpose of your visit to the States is to marry your fiance. What you should have applied for is a fiance visa and not a tourist visa.

3. Be honest about who filled up or encoded data in your application form. 

It will not affect whether or not you are granted a visa if you declared in your application form that someone else filled it up for you.

There is a portion in the application form that  asks who filled up the  form or encoded the data. You should be truthful on this  respect. It will not be taken against you if you admit that someone else filled up the form for you. What is important is that you read the contents and agreed to it. Those who had someone else fill up the form, and did not state who filled up the form, and at the interview admitted that they did not fill up the form, were asked to return the embassy after filling up another form declaring another person filled up the form for them. Imagine the hassle and the expense of doing so.

You receive your passport with visa by courier 2 days after your interview.

The visa application form focuses on the 5-year period prior to the application for a US tourist visa. During the 5 years prior to your first time visa application, you must have the following history:

1. Work history

You must have worked for at least 5 years with enough income to support traveling to another country for leisure purposes. It will be an added advantage if you stayed with one employer for that length of time. It will strengthen proof that you will return to the Philippines after visiting the States.

2. Travel history

You must actually have traveled to a foreign country several times in the past 5 years and have returned to the Philippines afterwards. It will be proof that you actually can afford to travel to another country, have traveled to a foreign country and returned to the Philippines, and that you have a habit of traveling to a foreign country for leisure. I actually have overheard a consul deny the visa to someone who has not traveled to another country prior to applying for a US tourist visa and then suggest to the applicant that he travel 1st to a regional destination like Hong Kong before embarking on a long journey to the States.

In this context,  I would also suggest that you travel to a "friendly" and "neutral" country like Hong Kong and Singapore 1st. Obviously, if you travel to Pakistan, or Yemen, where a lot of terrorist groups are present, it will send flags to the consul and you would most likely be denied a visa. Common foreign travel destinations for Filipinos are Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok.

If you need detailed information, go directly to the US embassy in Manila website and Visapoint.

Other posts you may be interested in reading: 
Where to ask your US Tourist Visa Questions

UPDATE as of November 27, 2012!!


Tagalog-speaking US embassy exec debunks some visa application myths